Bathe Away The Itch
Are you itching for answers to your itchy skin?
Itchy skin is annoying and one of the best ways to stop the itch is with warm water bathing. However, too much bathing or hot water bathing can strip away natural oils, disrupt skin microbiome, and cause the skin to dry out even more. In this article we’re going to dive into some of the root causes of the most common itches and explain why the American Academy of Dermatology Association is recommending warm water bathing for dry and itchy skin. There are many causes for itchy skin, but they can be classified into four key categories:
- Neurogenic: When our body’s nervous system and communication pathway isn’t functioning properly
- Psychogenic: When our body’s mind tricks us into believing we have an itch. This is largely driven by psychological disorders around body image.
- Neuropathic: Itch is caused by damage to nerves.
- Pruriceptive: When the skin becomes itchy due to the environment (dry air), medications, or being exposed to an irritant such as poison ivy or insect bite.
Dry Winter Skin
Dry skin is the #1 reason for whole body itching, itchy legs, and having recurring itches in the same spot.
Dry skin can occur year round, but it's most noticeable during the winter months. The dry air sucks moisture right out of our skin and dry skin increases the chances of having inflammation and itchiness. Even worse, each year our skin becomes more dehydrate than the last. As we age our skin loses the ability to produce sebum and hold onto moisture.
To deal with dry winter skin you have a couple of options. You can move to a hotter and more humid climate, use a humidifier at work and home OR start a new self-care strategy that involves taking moisturizing and relaxing baths.
Did you know that our body becomes dehydrated an night and this causes our skin to dry out and become itchier? Night itching may sound harmless, but it can have a serious impact on our sleep, energy levels, and moods.
Nothing makes the mind race like unexplained itching all over the body at night. Studies have found that our skin is more dehydrated at night and our body is also more sensitive and aware of changes at night. More specifically, night itching anxiety can hinder our mental health and affect our sleep quality. Night itching is on the rise across age groups and when itching affects our sleep it can begin to create more serious health problems.
Why do we get the night time itches?
Nothing makes the mind race like unexplained itching all over the body at night. We get itches at night for many of the same reasons why we get itches during the day, but at night our body’s circadian rhythm enhances our senses and our mind is more aware of itchy sensations. Our circadian rhythm controls our sleep cycle, but that's not all, it controls our skin temperature, moisture control, blood flow, and skin barrier.
Furthermore, skin itches become more noticeable during the evening due to fewer distractions and the natural warming of the skin that occurs due to our circadian rhythm. When the skin warms it increases blood flow and causes itching by drying out the skin (transepidermal water loss). Itching is also increased during the evenings due to changes in our immune system. At night our immune system releases more pro-inflammatory cytokines while reducing the release of anti-inflammatory hormones. Other reasons and variables to night time itching include:
- Autoimmune skin diseases such as psoriasis or eczema.
- Stress and anxiety from work and at home. (try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercise prior to bed)
- Bed bugs
- Food allergies
- Detergent allergies (what are you washing your sheets with and what are your sheets made from?)
- Iron deficiency anemia
Bathing Moisturizes the Skin
If your itchy skin is the cause of dry skin there’s a good chance that bathing will help your cause. Bathing right before bed is also one of the best ways to prevent night itching and promote a good night sleep.
There are many reasons for whole body itching, but self-care strategies that incorporate routine bathing offer the best solution to preventing and managing dry and itchy winter skin. Bathing is a low-cost and non-invasive medicine for itching all over the body. More importantly, bathing can have a direct impact on many of the sources of your itching as opposed to just masking or numbing the itch. While bathing don't over exfoliate, but a gentle scrubbing is necessary to remove dead skin cells and encourage healthy skin.
Can You Bathe Too Much?
When it comes to bathing and skin hydration, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Bathing in warm water once per week or every other day is a healthy habit, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. If you over do bathing or use water that is too hot it can actually strip away oils and dry out your skin. This problem is compounded when bathtubbers fail to apply a natural moisturizer after bathing.
Soak And Seal - The Ultimate Skin Hydration Protocol
Eczema is a skin condition that causes dry skin and itching and the National Eczema Association recommends a “soak and seal” moisturization strategy that involves applying lotions, creams or balms immediately after bathing. Over 50% of eczema patients have incorporated complementary or alternative and self care strategies and many of these individuals are paying close attention to their bathing and natural moisturization routines. Furthermore, there are many side effects that come with western medicine solutions (topical steroids) to common skin disorders.
Bath Bombs for Itchy Skin
Outside of soaking in warm water, adding bath bombs that contain baking soda, bath oil, salt, and citric acid can be a great at home itchy skin treatment. Decades of research have found that adding baking soda to bath can help relieve itchiness and citric acid and baking soda are the two main ingredients in bath bombs. Bubble baths may irritate our skin and cause itchiness, but high quality bath bombs do just the opposite.
Bathing prior to bed is one of the best routines for better managing night itching and the night itching anxiety that comes with it. If you’re tired of waking up at night itching all over then you need to step up your pre-bed self-care routine. Furthermore, bathing at night helps the skin retain more moisture as you rest. Bathing, bath bombs, and moisturizing balms may be the best remedy for itchy skin at night.
Liver Disease & Serious Conditions
Autoimmune skin conditions (psoriasis & eczema) are serious diseases that lead to itchy skin, but itchy skin can also mean something is wrong with your liver. If your feet are itching and you’re experiencing yellowing of the skin, abdominal pain, swelling in the legs, and pale stool color, it could mean you have underlying liver conditions that are causing your discomfort.
Individuals that have damage or scarring of the liver will often experience itching episodes at night and researchers have found that foot baths and massages are one of the best ways to reduce itching symptoms and promote good sleep. Other serious conditions that may be contributing to chronic itching may be skin cancer, cancer treatments, blood diseases, kidney disease, HIV, hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
Itching After Cancer Treatment
If you or someone you love has experienced chemotherapy or similar cancer treatment you may be aware that one of the top side effects is dry skin. Cancer patients may improve the appearance of their skin by incorporating medical bathing into their cancer treatment strategy, but more importantly, they may lower their stress levels and soothe itchy skin. The American Cancer Society reports that itching is one of the more common side effects of cancer treatments and the society recommends bathing in warm water and adding baking soda, oatmeal, and bath oil for optimal relief.
Choose Soap Wisely
What you lather up with and moisturize with plays a key role in your skin's health, hydration properties, and pH. The personal care products that we use can either support a balanced pH or they can disrupt our skin’s natural pH.
Unfortunately, many of the personal care products that we apply directly to our skin actually hurt our skin as opposed to help. The inconvenient truth behind traditional personal care brands is that many of the ingredients that are used are not beneficial to your skin. More specifically, many of the top “supermarket soap bars” and cleansers disrupt our natural pH and skin microbiome. This creates the perfect environment for dangerous microbes to colonize our skin. There is direct evidence that changes in our pH balance disrupts our microbiome and this is one of the leading causes of inflammatory diseases and dry skin. Furthermore, soaps high in fragrance can show allergic reactions on your skin and sensitive skin types should avoid themOther personal care products such as deodorants, shaving creams, and cosmetics can also strip the skin of its natural oils and cause a disruption of homeostasis. Fortunately, young and healthy skin can easily bounce back from a pH shock, but as we age, maintaining a balanced pH becomes more and more important. To learn more about skin pH, check out our blog, Understanding Your Skin’s pH Level.